Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Just one in 10 men do the fair share of household chores a survey revealed last week.

The research was conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research which aimed to explore what 50 years of the feminist movement has done to change attitudes.

Their research revealed an anomaly that while just one in ten married men split familial duties like housework equally, three times as many describe themselves as house husbands than 15 years ago.

The report also explored salaries and found women working full-time born in 1958 were earning 35 per cent less than men by the age of 41-42.

Meanwhile, professional women earned three times as much as those in unskilled jobs born the same year.

So the statics reveal a familiar thought, that while much has been done, there is still a long way to go and much more work to be done before true parity is achieved.

You can read more here.

Tributes rolled in for David Miliband MP last week after he announced his intention to leave Parliament to take up the role of chief executive of the New York based charity, the International Rescue Committee. He has described this as his dream job, and while we are of course delighted for him, he will be missed.

As he made the announcement so fitting tributes rolled in including from former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said he had hoped it would be time out from politics rather than a permanent decision.

Similarly Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary described Miliband’s “huge” contribution but said it would be wrong to write off his future in British politics.

Mandelson told the World Tonight on Radio 4 last week: “He just combined policy, good judgment, real concern, a knowledge of economics and an ability to tie things together. That is how he will be remembered. And that is why he why he will be a loss. But never say never. I wouldn’t say goodbye to David Miliband forever in British politics.”

Even opponents talked of Miliband in glowing terms. Tim Farron, the president of the Lib Dems, said in a tweet: “If this story is true, it’s a big loss for parliament … David was a big thinker, great politician and a lovely man.”

I also wish David and his family well in his new role in New York.

You can read more here.

David Cameron’s EU problems, not the Milibands, are the real story

Labour Party

Judging by the amount of media coverage generated by David Miliband’s New Statesman article of the “is he going to challenge his brother for the Labour leadership” variety, you would be forgiven for thinking this the at the very top of the political pops. Yet it manifestly is not.

David Miliband has consistently claimed he is not now going to do anything about trying to become Leader of the Labour Party. In addition, in case the mainstream media hadn’t noticed, the Leader of the Labour Party is only the Leader of the Opposition, not the Prime Minister. He is not the head of our government and, as such, has little real power. 

Power, of course, lies with David Cameron, who has troubles of his own which are real rather than in the media’s imagination. As I blogged yesterday and many other times, David Cameron is facing huge problems with his Eurosceptic backbenchers.

Yesterday’s Telegraph letter signed by 102 Tory Eurosceptics including all the officers of the influential 1922 Committee – Graham Brady, Brian Binley, Mark Prichard and Charles Walker – and two former Cabinet Ministers – Peter Lilley and John Redwood – is just one aspect of Cameron’s difficulty. The signatories make up a third of Tory MPs, 102 out of a total of 307, a massive proportion.

Moreover, the Eurosceptics are not going to go away. This is a determined band, some of whom such as the veteran Bill Cash have been around for a very long time peddling their simple message that all things EU are bad and Britain would be better off outside. At the very least they want powers currently located in the EU to be repatriated to Britain.

Then there are the Liberal-Democrats who are the polar opposite. It goes without saying that Cameron needs to keep the 57 Lib-Dem MPs on side to ensure his government survives.

So we already have a situation which is less than desirable. Yet it does not end there. I think that having now had direct experience of the European Union rather than simply listening to others talk about it, David Cameron is beginning to realise that repatriation of powers is not the piece of cake he once believed.

Poor David Cameron and the Conservative Party whips have to contend with one third of their MPs who will pursue their anti-EU crusade to the bitter end while at the same time needing to maintain support from a substantial number of MPs in the other coalition party whose distinctive policy has always been to favour Europe.  

To make matters even worse, David Cameron’s flagship policy on the EU – repatriation of power – is a non-runner. The policy requires agreement from the 26 other EU member states, which I have never believed will be forthcoming.

It’s all a terrible mess for Mr Cameron and it is real. It should be reported in more depth and detail. David Cameron’s EU problems are the headline news story, not whether or not there will be a Labour leadership challenge.

We should change the way we elect the Labour Leader

Labour Party

It’s time, I think, for some reflections on Labour Party Conference other than talking about my fringe meeting Blogging for Labour. As I’m now back in Brussels wrestling with the harrowing and appalling subject of child pornography on the internet as well and judging a European journalism prize, now seemed as good as any to put my thoughts on paper.

First and foremost, we must unite behind Ed Miliband.  I say this as a committed David supporter, and I would not be telling the whole truth if I said I wasn’t upset that David didn’t make it.  David is, in my opinion, one of the most able, most intellectually capable and most sincere of our MPs.  He was one of the best Foreign Secretaries this country has ever had with a deep understanding of foreign affairs and the international stage. (Since I am posting this blog before David has made a statement on his future, I won’t say any more at present).

Yet, we all have to move on.  The overriding task now is to fight the coalition and win the general election.  It’s not a Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, it’s a Tory Government. This should be our message.  Those who voted Clegg got Cameron while those who voted Cameron got exactly what it said on the tin.

Having attended almost every Labour Party Conference since 1978, I am far from being one of the new generation. However, I completely agree with Ed that Labour must now look forward. There’s nothing to be gained in harking back to the past, and I for one now hope that all references to the Iraq war are well and truly laid to rest.  Yes, I opposed the war publicly as an MEP. But now, I truly believe it is not only unhelpful but utterly damaging to rake this one over any more.  Both Labour and Great Britain have to move on.

The Conference was more than aware of the awesome nature of the events as they unfolded.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it, a subdued and expectant atmosphere amid the thronging delegates and myriad exhibition stands.

In my conference lifetime, I have been a Party member under seven leaders, including Miliband E – James Callaghan, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Of these, Callaghan and Foot were chosen before the electoral college was introduced and were elected only by MPs.  Kinnock, Smith and Blair faced little serious opposition and Brown was crowned without a contest.  Step up Ed Miliband who won by just over one percent.

It’s been a long 30 years and much has changed.

From the election of the left wing Michael Foot as Labour Leader in 1980 there was a battle royal between the Left, represented initially by Foot but later metamorphosing into the Militant Tendency and other Trotskyite factions (the Hard Left), and the Labour Party’s right wing, ironically during this period led by a number of influential trade unions. The exception among the trade unions was the then largest, the Transport and General Workers’ Union, who held a more left wing position.

Neil Kinnock, himself from the left stable, to his credit moved decisively away from the Foot legacy  as did John Smith his short period as Leader of the Opposition.

Crucially, however, it was not until Tony Blair and New Labour arrived, subsequently winning the 1997 general election, that the Hard Left was seen off as a force to be reckoned with. Although no longer influential, the Left as such never went away.  Moreover, there remained a significant number of Labour Party members who felt New Labour had sold out.

Yet this was nothing compared to the trade unions, who are by and large now to the left of the Party.  The affiliated trade unions, now mainly representing public sector workers, were never really on side with New Labour, and their evolution from right to left is, perhaps, the most interesting aspect of the 2010 Leadership contest.

So where does this leave us?  I have to say, I have difficulty with a system whereby victory can be gained without either a majority of MEPs and MPs or of local Party members.  The electoral college was, ironically, set up in the 1980s to give the right wing unions power on the basis their vote would marginalise the Hard Left. Since we no longer have a Hard Left, merely a Left, the time has, I believe, come to reform the way the ballot is held.  One member one vote would obviously be more democratic.  Even the Tory Party has OMOV for the two candidates selected by the 1922 Committee.

The new generation have to prove themselves.  What better way than reforming the way our Leader is elected to bring our outdated system into line with today’s Labour Party? To take this bold step would be to send a strong signal that things really had changed and that Labour is continuing its modernising agenda.

Glenis, David and Alistair

Labour Party

It’s been quite a morning at Labour Party Conference.  Although the talk of the town has been David Miliband’s gracious and heartfelt speech as Shadow Foreign Secretary, my interest also lay with EPLP Leader Glenis Willmott.

Speaking to conference delegates, Glenis pointed to the work being done by Labour’s team in the European Parliament: “Day in, day out, Labour MEPs are still making laws for the whole of the UK.”

Focussing on examples of recent wins, covering civil liberties, social protections and banking regulation, she told the conference that even when Labour is out of power in Westminster it can still make a real difference by acting in Brussels.

She went on to say: “The political battles we fight are not with Europe. They are with the right – in Brussels, at home and elsewhere.

“And in this battle Europe can be our ally.”

“It’s wrong that within our own party, we still regard the European Parliament as being over there. We still see the EU as merely a branch of foreign policy. Don’t forget: over there is also over here.

“Conference, up until now Labour hasn’t quite “got it” on Europe. “But I’m delighted to say that Ed (Miliband)”get’s it”.”

Next on stage was David Miliband who, eloquent as ever, gave us a passionate but thoughtful   speech.

Appealing for party unity, David declared: “no more cliques, no more factions, no more soap opera.” He even went as far as to quote Labour’s fourth leader, John Robert Clynes, who said Labour politicians went into politics “not to practice class war, but to end it”.

At the heart of the speech was what David called “hard-headed internationalism”. On Afghanistan, he said: “we’re not an occupying army, we’re trying to prevent an occupation.” He also reminded delegates that foreign armies never end civil wars. In addition, in what looks like an unaccustomed outbreak of consensus, he promised to support David Cameron if he did the right thing. “When he takes risks for peace, we will be the first to congratulate him every step of the way.”

David looked very inch the statesman. Those of us who supported David for the Leadership of the Labour Party must now unite behind his brother to take us to victory and a Labour government.

The final big speech of the morning was Alistair Darling, not as he himself lamented ever the “darling” of conference, but an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer and a likeable, understated politician.

In his last weighty conference speech Alistair said that Labour should be proud of its record in power, “Proud in the way we changed Britain for the better, in ways big and small.”

He  accused the coalition government of gambling with the economic upturn kickstarted by the previous Labour administration.

Although Alistair had himself planned spending cuts to bring down the deficit, it would have been done at a lower and slower rate while continuing to invest in public services.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no difference between us and the coalition …we never have been, and never will be the same,” he told us in no uncertain terms.

“The Tories are using the need to reduce borrowing as a way of dismantling the support millions depend on,” and their Liberal Democrat partners are passively going along with cuts targeted on the poor and needy.

Alistair also said that to abandon Labour’s balanced approach will put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and hit the living standards of millions of people.

Unite for a Labour Victory

Labour Party

So it’s Ed M by less than a whisker – 1.3% to be precise.

However, as Polly Toynbee has just said on the Andrew Marr show, this was no Denis Healey/Tony Benn election.  There quite simply was no big political difference between Miliband E and Miliband D.

Given this, I truly believe there will no difficulty in the Labour Party uniting behind the new Leader. While commiserating for David, I feel strongly we should, and will, now all get on with the business of opposition, pulling together and avoiding even the merest hint of factionalism.    

I arrived at Labour Party Conference on Friday evening and joined the queue to get into the Leadership announcement yesterday afternoon. Before the announcement of the ballot result we were treated to the inevitable speeches.

 Gordon Brown has undergone a transformation since stepping down.  Witty and relaxed, he returned to his old form.  Two video tributes showed just how much we owe Gordon, especially as the longest serving and most radical Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Harriet will, fortunately, still be with us as our elected Deputy Leader.

 What is so important now that we all pull together for a Labour victory.  Ed and the soon to be elected Shadow Cabinet, not to mention Labour MEPs, can now get on with the job of defeating the Coalition and returning Labour to government.

About the Speakers at my Fringe Meeting – Jessica Asato

Labour Party

I was delighted when Jessica Asato agreed to speak at my fringe meeting.  Jessica is one of the few Labour women experts in social media, and I very much hope she will inspire more women to make use of the many and varied political online opportunities.   

As most of you know, Jessica Asato is Acting Director of Progress and an Islington councillor representing St George’s Ward.  She will speak at the fringe meeting in her capacity as social media organiser for the David Miliband campaign.

Prior to working at Progress, Jessica was a researcher at the Social Market Foundation think tank for three years, and spent a year working as a freelance researcher publishing reports on the issues of demographic change and paying for long-term care.

Jessica is, in addition, a former Chair of the Young Fabians, and has been an Executive Member of the Fabian Society since 2004. She is also a former Vice-Chair of Young Labour.

She is at present a governor of Tufnell Park School and acting Joint-Chair of the sexual health charity Brook.  In 2008 Jessica set up the Gareth Butler History Trust to raise money to pay for disadvantaged students to go on school history trips.

My fringe meeting is on Monday 27 September at 6.00pm in Manchester Central, Charter 1.  The other speakers are top Labour blogger Tom Harris MP, Alex Smith, editor of LabourList and Councillor John Gray from the London Borough of Newham.

About the Speakers at my Fringe Meeting – Tom Harris MP

Labour Party

During the next few days I thought I would give a brief pen-portrait of each of the speakers at my fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference, How Social Media can drive a Wedge into the Coalition.  First off is Tom Harris MP.

With his lively mix of political commentary and personal anecdote, it’s not surprising that Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, has established himself as a firm favourite in the ever-expanding blogosphere.  His blog, “And another thing…”, has, in recent years, accumulated a whole host of awards, along with more that 50,000 viewings a month.

This popularity is, in part, a reflection of Tom’s writing style; a former journalist, he writes eloquently, enlivening even the duller policy issues. Perhaps more significant, however, is his willingness  to challenge received wisdom and offer a distinctive personal perspective, informed by his Scottish roots and long history of Labour Party involvement. Tom’s nine years in Parliament give him that all-important insider’s insight whilst, having grown up on a Ayrshire council estate and experienced unemployment and deprivation first hand, he is able to offer an outlook that is sometimes missing from mainstream media.

So, if you haven’t already had a look at Tom’s entertaining offerings, read his blog now at: http://www.tomharris.org.uk/

My fringe meeting is on Monday 27 September at 6.00pm in Manchester Central, Charter 1.  The other speakers are Alex Smith, editor of LabourList, Jessica Asato who is running David Miliband’s social media campaign and UNISON activist, Councillor John Gray from the London Borough of Newham.

If you haven’t yet voted, please make David Miliband Number One

Labour Party

David Miliband has just sent out this e-mail:

“In the last four months I’ve travelled the length and breadth of this country and listened to thousands of members – and I’ve been inspired by what I’ve seen and heard.

“When this contest began talk was of how the Labour Party would implode, talk only to itself or seek to fight old battles. But instead we’ve moved on from the Blair/Brown era and shown that we are determined to look outwards and to the future.

“We are a Party determined to show that whilst we lost in May, we are not beaten. A Party that knows it can buck the trend, not disappear into the obscurity of opposition for a decade. A Party that will not give up, but will fight to win.

“Now, with voting closing next Wednesday, we’re into the final week. And we have to decide who can win for Britain.

“Every candidate in this contest claims that they are going to win, it’s what you do in campaigns.

“But ask me who I’d most like to beat and there is no contest – it’s David Cameron.

“Poll after poll carried out during this contest has shown that I am the candidate who can beat David Cameron.

“I am ready to stand opposite him at Prime Minister’s Questions and expose the wrongs he’s inflicting on the communities we care about.

“I’m ready to expose a Tory government as ruthless and right wing as any of Thatcher’s and win for the people we came into politics to serve. They need our values, our voice and, most of all, our victory. When we lose, they lose.

“They are the reason why I am fighting for every last vote in this contest. I will take the fight to the heart of the Coalition – and I will not let you down.

“My campaign has reached out across the Party. I’m humbled that my support unites Dennis Skinner, Jon Cruddas and Alistair Darling. And today I’m asking for your support as well. 

“So if you haven’t voted yet in this contest please do so now.

“Please give me your first preference – millions of people are depending on us and the values we hold dear.

“Thank you

“David Miliband”

If you saw David on Question Time last night, I am sure you will agree with me that he is the only one of the five candidates who looks and sounds like a Prime Minister.  Vote David Miliband for a Labour victory.

Andy Burnham’s Campaign Supremo to vote David Miliband second Preference

Labour Party

You may remember that I blogged on 1 September that one of Ed Ball’s most prominent supporters, Geoffrey Robinson, was giving his second preference vote to David Miliband. 

The London Evening Standard has now reported that Gerry Sutcliffe, Andy Burnham’s campaign supremo is also giving his second preference to David

This has to be good for David Miliband.  He already has more first preferences than any of the other candidates and it now looks as if he will pick up a good number of seconds in the MP/MEP section.  

It’s also good news for the Labour Party.  David Miliband is the only one of the five candidates who is prime ministerial material.  He has a sound electoral platform which will appeal to many outside the Labour Party – the very people we need to vote for us in the next general election.

As a Party activist in the 1980s I know what opposition is like – frustrating and soul-destroying.  Believe me, it would not be good for the Labour Party of the people who vote for us if we remained in oppositon party for any longer than necessary.

David Miliband is a winner.  Vote David for victory.

David Miliband talks Sense on the Alternative Vote

Labour Party

As you know I am a supporter of changing our outdated first past the post voting system to something more proportional and fairer.  I therefore think it’s a good idea to have a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system.  I am, however, totally opposed to the Coalition’s proposal to reduce the number of House of Commons seats to 600, which I, along with many others,  view as gerrymandering for the benefit of the Tories.  Putting the AV referendum and reducing the number of seats in one bill is quite shocking, a blatant bribe to get Lib-Dem MPs to vote for the reduction in seats.

Steve Richards excellent interview with David Miliband in the Independent newspaper (the whole piece is worth reading) says it all:

“Labour’s possible next leader has a direct message for Nick Clegg on electoral reform: “I am strongly in favour of the Alternative Vote, but if the Liberal Democrats want AV they are going about it very oddly. Let us be clear. They need Labour to be in favour of it, yet they support a package that includes other constitutional changes being rushed through to help the Conservatives. It’s student politics and not clever politics. If Liberal Democrats want electoral reform they should think very carefully about supporting amendments to the legislation that we are putting forward. Remember we want AV to succeed and there are Tories who oppose electoral reform who are rubbing their hands about the way the Liberal Democrats have gone about this … if we want AV, which I do, we have to find a way around this.”

My thoughts exactly and demonstrates why David Miliband is the best candidate to lead the Labour Party.